AU set to sell Midwest building
- Published: June 8, 2017
Antioch University plans to sell its Yellow Springs campus building, according to a letter from Interim Chancellor William Groves dated May 30 and shared with the press this week.
The university will be hiring a national real estate firm to find potential buyers for the 94,000 square-foot building, located at the western edge of Yellow Springs. It will seek to locate its facilities in “more robust markets, such as south Dayton,” Groves wrote in the letter.
The property could go on the market as early as mid-July, after the university has engaged a real estate firm, according to Groves in a phone interview with the News on Wednesday. The university is sending out a request for proposal, or RFP, to national real estate firms this week.
While potential buyers could be other educational providers, there are no restrictions on whom the university can sell the building to, Groves said. Last summer, after the university first announced that it was exploring the possibility of selling the Antioch University Midwest building in connection with a university-wide restructuring and assessment of its physical facilities, it was contacted by two local educational entities, Groves said. The Yellow Springs school district and the Greene County Career Center each approached the university with interest in possibly purchasing the facility, according to Groves. No further discussions have been had to-date, however.
A call to Yellow Springs School District Superintendent Mario Basora on Wednesday was not returned by press time.
No sale price has been set for the building, which was built for $13.5 million in 2006. The building is adjacent to the Village-owned CBE land on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road, where Village officials are currently exploring selling eight acres to medical marijuana firm Cresco Labs.
Groves’ May 30 letter cites as a reason for the building’s sale the rise of hybrid and online courses and low-residency programs, which require less physical space. On Wednesday, Groves said that enrollment declines at the Yellow Springs campus also played a part. Enrollment at the Antioch University Midwest campus is currently stable at about 500 students, Groves said, but down from a high of about 700 in the early 2000s. Anticipated enrollment growth at the Yellow Springs facility never materialized.
“We’re not using the space at AUM to full capacity,” Groves said. “There’s no reason to have a 94,000 square-foot building for 500 students.”
But the university is also seeing a shift in preferred delivery methods for programs, with the low-residency model, which combines distance learning and short residency stays, an increasingly popular option, according to Groves. Antioch University Midwest is currently the site for the university’s popular PhD in Leadership and Change program, which draws students from around the country. Two more low-residency programs could be added to the Midwest campus over the next 12 to 18 months.
The university has determined that a majority of its “place-based” students — those that attend in person — come from the center of Dayton and south, areas that also represent the best enrollment growth opportunities for the AUM campus, Groves said. The university will likely lease space in Dayton, as well as potentially locating low-residency programs at another site outside the Dayton market but convenient to a major airport.
“It’s a more nodal approach,” Groves said of the university’s exploration of several smaller sites rather than a single large one.
The decision to sell the AUM building came after a year of studying the issue, according to Groves. Faced with changing student needs, lower-than-expected enrollment and financial challenges, Antioch University undertook a campus-wide restructuring last summer, including eliminating its five campus presidents and campus boards. The university had faced an $8 million deficit in its overall operating budget, but it has since balanced its operating budget for the 2018 fiscal year that begins July 1, according to Groves.
The planned sale of the AUM building follows the $26.5 million sale of the university’s downtown Seattle campus in 2015 and relocation to leased space. The university has always leased space for its Santa Barbara and Los Angeles facilities, while it continues to own its Keene, N.H., building.
Also announced in the May 30 letter are modest rises in Antioch University’s overall enrollment this spring and summer; the university’s success in addressing several issues raised by the Higher Learning Commission in a February site visit; and the launch of a three-year, $5 million fundraising campaign focused on raising funds for expanding existing programs and launching new degrees.